Debate Over Autism

1 decade 1 year 10 months ago Monday, July 30 2007 Jul 30, 2007 Monday, July 30, 2007 1:46:18 AM CDT July 30, 2007 in News

The increase in the number of diagnosed cases of autism in recent years has raised concern that environmental toxins may be to blame. The true cause is unknown, but one mother has some suspicions. Like any mother, Heather Cleek's three children are the apple of her eye. One of her sons, Thomas, loves basketball, baseball and helping around the house. A couple years ago, Cleek noticed a drastic change in her son.

"He only had three words to start with and they were gone," Cleek said.

Thomas has autism. Thomas knows he has autism, but science does not have an answer why. A recent study by Columbia's Thompson Center says pregnant women exposed to mercury don't pass on a higher risk for autism to their unborn babies. The study also says pregnant women who are given RH immune globin preserved with mercury containing thimerosal don't have increased chances of having an autistic child.

"So this just gives us one more piece of evidence that there is not a connection between mercury in thimerosal that children are exposed to and autism," Dr. Judith Miles of the Thompson Center said.

But Cleek is not fully convinced that vaccines are totally safe. Thomas was diagnosed with autism before kindergarten and after that doctors gave him vaccines that she says hurt his progress.

"He was very aggressive. His speech seemed to go through delays we had not anticipated. We were just really disturbed by the changes we saw in him. I am not saying it causes the autism, but it did, for him, increase his autistic tendencies," Cleek said.

While there is still no scientific evidence to prove the link between vaccinations and autism, Dr. Miles encourages parents to have their children vaccinated. She says the study drives that point home.

"It should be one more piece of information that will reassure parents that it is very important that their children receive their childhood immunization because childhood immunizations are life saving," Dr. Miles said.

Cleek says she will opt out of future vaccines for Thomas. He doesn't take medications but does do therapy for his autism. Cleek hopes the best for his future.

"Mostly to be happy and have friends and family that love him all the time," Cleek explains.

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